Another superhero comic set in the DC Universe that I borrowed from a co-worker. This one includes the Justice League and other superheroes and villians that I’m vaguely familiar with, but despite my lack of knowledge about the characters and the universe, I was still able to enjoy the story.
Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer, illus. by Rags Morales with inks by Michael Bair, letters by Ken Lopez, and colors by Alex Sinclair. The original series covers were by Michael Turner.
Action/adventure; science fiction
When the spouse of a JLA member is brutally murdered, the entire super-hero community searches for the killer, fearing their own loved ones may be the next targets! But before the mystery is fully solved, a number of long-buried secrets rise to the surface, threatening to tear apart and divide the heroes before they can bring the mysterious killer to justice. (Goodreads)
This one was fun. I enjoyed reading it and I’m pretty sure readers who’re more familiar with the characters in the DC Universe will enjoy it more than I did.
It’s not as action-packed as other superhero comics I’ve seen, but it is entertaining and the mystery pulls you along as you follow the heroes’ investigation of the murder. I like how it begins because the narration makes you expect something will happen and when it does, the artwork dramatizes the emotion the character feels making the discovery of the dead spouse more impactful on the reader.
The story gradually develops and the further we delve into the mystery, the more we learn about the worries the heroes have about their loved ones and a past incident that involved memory wiping that had a great effect on them.
What I loved about this story is that it emphasizes the superheroes’ humanness. Often superhero stories focus on the heroes’ special abilities or vendetta against an evil villain, but Identity Crisis shows us that despite their abilities, the superheroes are like common folk because they also have loved ones who they care about and normal lives that they go back to on their off hours. We understand this through the story’s narration and character dialogues, but it is emphasized in the illustrations, in scenes where we see a villain doing something as normal and sweet as playing catch with a son he has reconnected with or a hero doing something as ordinary as switching off a lamp light before going to sleep.
And because of the horrific murders that hit close to the heart, we also get a lot of emotion from this story, namely grief, which is mostly communicated to us through the artwork. Of all the comics I’ve read thus far, Identity Crisis is one of the best at knowing when to let the art speak for itself. My favorite panels are those that effectively communicate the characters’ emotions, like when one of the heroes bawls while holding his dead wife in his arms or the numerous panels of rope, the last of which shows Atomic Man slashing through them.
Major spoilers below. (I’ll white out the section where I discuss the murderer (click and drag your mouse over it to read).)
However, what I didn’t like was who the murderer turned out to be. I appreciate that a couple red herrings were thrown in our and the heroes’ way to mislead us, but who the murderer is revealed to be wasn’t believable. I actually thought it was a joke. It made no damn sense and was a huge let down for me.
I thought choosing Atomic Man’s wife as the murderer was a total cop-out and a quick way to wrap up the story. We were misled in believing it was a villain and I appreciated that because it made sense. Then I thought it was Calculator because he knows so damn much.
I like that we were tricked for a moment in believing that it might be Atomic Man because of how he’s illustrated at the end of chapter six, and there was a time when I thought it might be Robin’s dad because the murders made Robin spend more time with him (which is what his dad wants), but Atomic Man’s wife?…
I never thought of her and when it’s revealed it was her and that she’s crazy, it didn’t add up. We hardly spend time with her or see her character develop in any way to later believe that she was devolving or was worried or was somehow connected to the murders. Robin’s dad would have been a more plausible killer because in the brief time we see him, we see his relationship with Robin develop and realize that he has benefited from the attempts on the lives of the heroes’ loved ones. The same can’t be said of Atomic Man and his divorced wife. Sure, there’s the time she was attacked and he showed that he still cares about her, but that shows him somehow benefiting, not her.
And if it’s her, then what was the point of having Superman realize how the rope was tied and making Black Canary and Green Arrow visit a random villain in jail to question him about it??? It made no sense. I don’t think how the rope was tied was even mentioned when it was revealed Ms. Atomic Man was the killer.
Apart from who the murderer is, I also didn’t like how the story was narrated because it was sometimes hard to tell who the characters are or who’s talking, but I think that’s because I’m unfamiliar with almost all of them. The story mostly uses the characters’ real names instead of their superhero monikers as another way to humanize them, but that just made me confused.
I didn’t like was how the wives of Elongated Man and Atomic Man were characterized either. They seem like total airheads because their reasons for doing certain major things make no damn sense, which brings me back to my problem with the murderer. I’m pretty sure the writer could have thought of more concrete reasons for these women to do what they did without seeming so silly
Also, I didn’t care much for the mind wiping plot line, but I think that’s because I’m unfamiliar with the DC Universe. That plot line piggybacks on previous stories in the DC Universe that I haven’t read. However, I do like that it shows there’s a divide with the Justice League, a league within the league, and that it touches on what can result from superheroes’ dangerous job of being a superhero — their loved ones can be targets if the superheroes’ identities are ever revealed.
The art is great. Strong illustrations, appealing colors, and great storytelling choices. I like how the fight scenes are drawn because the artist tries to feature everyone, but sometimes one or two characters would look a bit awkward to me.
I mentioned some of my favorite panels above because the artist does a great job of communicating the characters’ emotions through his pictures or making characters do simple tasks to emphasize their humanness. However, another favorite illustration is a quick sketch he did of Dr. Light at the end of a chapter when Light realizes his mind had been fiddled with. I could feel his rage.
The major fight scene was a favorite too, but it’s hard to tell if I like it because of how it’s narrated or how it’s drawn or both. I loved it though and the villain, Deathstroke, is such a formidable enemy. He took everyone down! But it was funny how Green Arrow got him to lose his focus. Lol! I would have liked to see that fight scene on screen in 3D.
Another favorite scene was the funeral of the dead spouse because all the heroes show up for it. Those more familiar with the characters than I would appreciate that scene a bit more too. I just liked seeing all the characters there. Also, I like the issue covers: My favorite is of all the capes hung up.
See pages from the comic below. Click on them for a larger view. You will be spoiled on who died, but it’s not a major spoiler.
Overall: ★★★★☆ 1/2
Almost 5 stars. I had to subtract some points for silly female characters. I think they should have been stronger. I mean Louis Lane was in there for about five seconds and she seemed stronger than them both. L I’m really pissed about that.
Anyway, great story and I highly recommend it to DC Universe fans who haven’t yet read it.